Friday, April 15, 2011


When I was a kid taking swimming lessons for the first time, I remember learning how to float. At first I was really nervous. I didn't believe it was possible for me to float. I seemed to have proof of it: when I jumped into the water, I'd sink right to the bottom. How could I float? When the teacher told us to try to float, I'd struggle. I was afraid of the water rising up over my face. I'd tense up and wiggle, thinking that would keep me at the top of the water, but of course it didn't. It wasn't until I could relax, and let go. Stop trying. That's when I learned that if I just calmly let my chest and my stomach rise, the water would hold me just enough to keep the water from covering my face. I could float if I just surrendered.

When I do my morning stretching exercises, I've learned the same thing. I've never been good at touching my toes. My legs are long in comparison with my torso, and I always thought toe-touches were impossible for me. When I tried, I'd get to a certain point and the backs of my legs would start to complain, and tell me I couldn't do it without bending my knees. I'd tense up, and I just couldn't do it. But then finally one day, I learned something. If I exhaled as I started to reach, my body naturally relaxed. Instead of tensing at the point where my muscles were really stretching, I'd relax into the stretch, and suddenly, the toe-touches were easy, and actually felt good! I guess I've discovered that my body can do amazing things, if I stop thinking so much about it, and just let go.

Spiritually, it works the same way. I've discovered that "the natural man" is not about desiring sex or material things. Those things have a valid place in a life that is lived in the fullness that God intends. Rather, "the natural man" is the desiring itself, the wanting, the scheming. I can desire very spiritual things (to sit at the right hand of Christ) and my desire can still corrupt me. Perhaps worse than my desire for material things or physical release. It's the conniving to get what we want, what we think we need. It's when we figuratively take life by the throat and demand, "Pay me that thou owest," when the way of truth would be to seek first the kingdom of God, and let whatever we need be added unto us. It's not by worry, Christ taught, that we can add an inch to our stature, or turn a white hair dark. The lilies of the field don't toil, but God arrays them nonetheless.

That's why the most profoundly religious act was in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Christ said, "Not my will, but thine be done." It was in that act of surrender.

We can get so lost in our desire. This morning, as I was reading in the Doctrine & Covenants, I ran into this excellent counsel to David Whitmer:
You have feared man and have not relied on me for strength as you ought.... You have not given heed unto my Spirit, and to those who were set over you, but have been persuaded by those whom I have not commanded. Wherefore, you are left to inquire for yourself at my hand, and ponder upon the things which you have received. (D&C 30: 1-3)
We lose the Spirit when we calculate.

It's a simple act, this letting go. It's hard to do with our heads, though. We usually have to breathe, to exhale, to let go. Our hearts know how to let go better than our heads. God will let us fight and struggle, and drown! In order to let us learn for ourselves how to let go and be sustained, to float! In order to grow, to stretch, we must learn to relax.


JonJon said...

I love this, John. I started to comment but then just decided to turn it into a post of my own.

MoHoHawaii said...

[Reposted to fix typo]

I always suspected you might really be a Buddhist.

;- )

Seriously, this is a lovely post. If there is anything this nonbeliever ever learned about spirituality, it's that true spirituality involves letting go. That deep exhale is (metaphorically) one of the most meaningful things we can do. Of course, I don't see why it requires belief in God, but that's a topic for another day.

J G-W said...

MHH: Thanks! Since everything I know about Buddhism, I learned from Jesus, maybe that would make Jesus a Buddhist too. (Or the Buddha a Christian!)

I could say more on the topic of letting go... I had a fairly intense experience with this this past weekend, and I learned incredible things from it... From letting go.

I guess I could say my willingness to embrace my testimony and return to the Church has also been a kind of letting go... Going with what the deepest part of me tells me I must do, and trusting that it will lead me someplace wonderful.